Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

A Royal Night Out, or: God, Raves the Queen

If you can’t party after literally defeating the Nazis in Europe, when exactly is an appropriate time to celebrate?  That is the philosophical question this week’s film considers, while also pondering how many people in 1945 England just happened to have Hitler effigies lying around for an improvised Bonfire Night.

The Film:

A Royal Night Out

The Premise:

After the Allied victory in WWII, princesses Elizabeth and Margaret spend a wild night out on the town.

The Ramble:

May 8, 1945, aka VE Day.  It seems as if all of London is off to celebrate–everyone, that is, except for two Windsor princesses very much in need of a night out.

After much pleading with their parents, Elizabeth and Margaret finally strike a deal:  the two sisters will get a night out until 1:00am, provided they return with a report on how the masses respond to the King’s midnight address (most likely feedback:  who the eff picks midnight as a good time to address the nation?!?!).  Though they will attempt to blend in with the crowd, they will be accompanied by two royal guards, who will serve as their chaperones.

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Margaret is so ready to party that she doesn’t even care.  Dressed in matching pink, the two are vaguely reminiscent of the twins in The Shining as they descend the grand staircase.  I absolutely cannot imagine willingly matching my sister’s outfit for a night out on the town, but hey…different times.

Almost immediately, the princesses’ plans seem to be thwarted when they end up in a ritzy party full of the stuffy old nobility (is there any other kind?).  Margaret gets into shenanigans with a naval officer and easily ditches all members of her party.  Elizabeth loses the guards too, but doesn’t manage to catch up with her sister.

While Elizabeth does manage to hitch a ride on the bus in pursuit of Margaret, she is on a decidedly less fun bus.  Even on the boring regular bus, fares must be paid–a thought that hasn’t occurred to Elizabeth.  Luckily, her seatmate Jack, an airman, comes to the rescue by paying her fare, though they both manage to fall off the bus in a way that’s sweet in a rom-com, but would be horrendously painful in real life.

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Having failed to track down Margaret, Elizabeth is in a bar when the clock strikes midnight.  The rowdy masses quiet down and respectfully listen to George’s speech–everyone except for Jack.  He reacts angrily to the speech and dismisses all of the posh gits in power.  Elizabeth is annoyed but needs help getting to Trafalgar Square, where she believes she’ll find Margaret.  There are so many goddamn people in that square that that I would have immediately turned around and gone home, sister or no sister.

Margaret has, in fact, gone to Trafalgar–but by now she’s on her way to a house of ill repute with , who drugs her drink(!?!??!?!).  The owner of this establishment, who seems to be some kind of mafioso (or whatever kind of person just happens to collect horse heads in a bucket), comes to her rescue.  True to form, Margaret is keen to get to the next place rumored to have a great party, and she now has a new escort.

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Elizabeth and Margaret finally reunite, though their guards and the military police happen to arrive at the same location.  When the military police seize Jack, Elizabeth reveals her true identity.  But can she help him even though he can never be…part of her world?

The Rating:

3/5 Pink Panther Heads

Imagine a film is made about your epic night out…and you basically just drink and dance and come home a little past curfew.  Don’t get me wrong–our leads in the film are great, and Princess Margaret is appropriately the queen of partying.  (Speaking of the cast, I would have killed for Emily Watson and Rupert Everett to have more to do; I love them so much, but most of their cues in the script must have been “look disapproving.”)  However, this night out is a bit of a non-story, and I have trouble understanding the point of this film.  We learn about the experiences of royalty and civilian alike during the war, and even get a sobering look at neighborhoods bombed in the Blitz.  Everything else about this film is so breezy that these moments don’t have the emotional impact they should.

For a film about a night out, there’s a lot of time spent running around London in a farcical way, which gets tiresome.  And it may not be a great sign for a film when a decent number of major plot points remind me of Disney’s Aladdin?  But without the catchy songs and upbeat genie sidekick.  Perhaps I also had unrealistic expectations of how the film’s plot would play out.

Things I Expected But Did Not Happen in This Film:

  • Rupert Everett and Emily Watson are crowned the actual King and Queen of England in honor of their disapproving frowns
  • Princess Margaret runs away and becomes an acrobat but is fired after she tries to skin the circus animals to make a fur shrug
  • Princess Elizabeth joins a group of anarchists determined to rid the UK of the monarchy
  • Jeeves and Wooster are chased around a nightclub after stealing a cow creamer

Things That Did Happen in This Film:

  • Elizabeth rather elegantly chugs a pint
  • Margaret goes to a club of ill repute and refers to herself as P2 in an incredibly posh manner
  • Elizabeth pushes around a passed out Margaret in a wheelbarrow
  • Emily Watson as the Queen Mother imperiously asks “Hwhere have you been?”
  • King George VI reveals his most secret (and arguably saddest) desire:  to ride public transit

The moral of the story is I only care about the royal family when they’re being insane, and there’s not a ton of that going on here.  Where is the Princess Margaret movie we deserve???

Would my blog wife crown this one queen or wear the crown herself?  Find out by reading her review here!

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Film Reviews

Thousand Pieces of Gold, or: My Own Prospecting Idaho

It.  Is.  Period drama month!!!  To celebrate, I’m throwing an extra period drama or two into this month’s lineup, along with our usual Blog Collab programming.  The only thing I love more than a period drama is a socially conscious period drama, so this film scores major points with me.

The Film:

Thousand Pieces of Gold

The Premise:

After being sold as a bride in the States, Chinese-American Lalu attempts to take charge of her destiny and forge a life for herself.

The Ramble:

Lalu and her family belong to a group of nomadic shepherds in remote northern China.  After an especially bad drought, the family is starving, and it seems unlikely everyone will survive.  Lalu’s father makes the heartbreaking decision to sell her as a mail-order bride so she and the rest of the family can live.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the reality of Lalu’s situation is hidden and, rather than becoming a bride, she is sold at auction to a Chinese trader named Li Po.  Unbeknownst to her, Li Po works for a man who operates a saloon and brothel as the gold rush winds down in Idaho.

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Along the way to the States, Lalu is relieved to have someone to talk to and remember the Chinese legends surrounding the constellations.  Li Po also helps Lalu learn some basic English so she can avoid the creepy men of the States, but he doesn’t stay around long enough to help her much beyond that.

Upon arriving in Idaho, Lalu realizes Li Po’s employer Hong King doesn’t intend to marry her at all; in fact, he intends to hire her out as a sex worker…while he keeps all of the profits, of course.  Lalu becomes Polly as Hong King assures her this will be easier for white people to understand.

Shockingly, the white men of small-town Idaho are pretty much garbage except for Hong King’s friend Charlie.  He shows Lalu around town and points out Chinatown, a small but bustling part of the town.

After Aunt Zelda from Sabrina the Teenage Witch(!) gets Lalu ready, she will make her debut at the saloon.  Hong King plans to accept the highest bid for Lalu, but no one is particularly interested after she fights off a man who gets handsy.  Charlie, who owns the saloon, intervenes and demands Hong King find other work for Lalu.  As a compromise, Lalu works for Hong King cooking and cleaning, but still has to sleep with him.  Gross.

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Eventually, Li Po returns to Idaho and Lalu confronts him about his role in selling her to Hong King.  Li Po promises to buy Lalu’s freedom, but it will take time to earn enough money.  Pleased with Li Po’s promise, Lalu sleeps with him…which leads Hong King to beat a dead horse yet again (not a euphemism).  Hong King decides that, since Lalu consents to sex with one man, she should earn him some money by sleeping with other men.

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Again, Charlie intervenes, challenging Hong King to a game of cards.  Charlie wagers the deed to the bar against Lalu’s freedom, winning the game.  Lalu, afraid that Charlie will just gamble her away to someone else, resists his advances.  Charlie is disappointed Lalu isn’t more grateful (eye roll), but he does leave her alone.  He tells Lalu she is free, and she begins to take in laundry to earn a living.

Shortly after, Li Po arrives back in town with the money to buy Lalu from Hong King.  When he discovers Lalu now lives with Charlie, he is scandalized and leaves town again without waiting for an explanation.  Lalu is heartbroken but determined to be independent.  Despite Charlie’s objections, she moves out and manages the boarding house, saving as much money as she can to return to China.

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Now an independent lady, Lalu attends Chinese New Year celebrations with Charlie.  The festivities are cut short when a group of racist dudes show up and injure several people, including Charlie.  Soon after, all Chinese immigrants in the area are given eviction notices and told to leave town.  Though Charlie hopes Lalu will stay, she believes she will never belong in Idaho and remains intent on leaving for China.

With her Chinese and American identities pulling her in opposing directions, where can Lalu call home?

The Rating:

4/5 Pink Panther Heads

This is totally a romance novel in disguise and I love it.  However, as a period drama it takes on issues I’ve almost never seen on film:  real laws excluding Chinese immigrants from owning businesses, sudden reversals on immigration quotas, and (un)official racist policies driving Chinese-Americans from their homes.  I remember learning about things like the Chinese Exclusion Act in my history classes, but I wish we had talked more about what this actually meant for Chinese communities…and the lasting legacy of racist policies.

In addition to the social messages, the characters feel real.  Lalu struggles to find a place in the States without losing her identity.  Mistreated by many people, she is bruised but determined, and takes shit from no one.  Charlie is also a layered character who is, in some ways, a product of his time.  While he doesn’t pressure Lalu to sleep with him, he does still have expectations about Lalu magically reciprocating his feelings.  And he does benefit from the racist law banning Hong King from owning a business.

I didn’t include it in my review as I am trying to keep my word count under control, but the relationship between Aunt Zelda and Lalu is quite sweet.  I’m always here for female solidarity, and their relationship also serves to differentiate between types of sex work.  Lalu’s situation is terrible as she doesn’t choose to be a sex worker; Aunt Zelda, however, seems to embrace her role and the freedom it allows her.  This is a nuanced distinction for any film to make, and I’m proud of one of my favorite genres for being ahead of the game on this.

I am pleased, period drama gods.

Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Lady J, or: Voulez-vous coucher avec moi?

Soft laughter echoing across marble stairs.  Gently twirling parasols.  Delicate lace sleeves.  More hats than you could wear in a lifetime.  It can only be period drama month on the Blog Collab.

The Film:

Lady J

The Premise:

A woman of the French nobility seeks revenge on the libertine who broke her heart.

The Ramble:

The Marquis des Arcis is a piece of work, let me tell you.  A libertine who claims to love all of his conquests, the Marquis has his sights set on widowed Madame de La Pommeraye.

Fully aware of his terrible reputation, Pommeraye resists his advances, proclaiming her belief in friendship only, not love.  However, the Marquis and his charm begin to take effect, and the two become lovers.

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Even from the French countryside, news travels fast, and Pommeraye becomes the subject of nasty gossip in Paris.  Unconcerned as their love is so pure, Pommeraye prances merrily along.

When the Marquis must travel for business, so our troubles begin.  As he travels more frequently, he becomes increasingly distant.  Unable to take it any longer, Pommeraye confronts the Marquis about the lack of love between them.  Heartbroken over their breakup, Pommeraye nevertheless remains friends with her ex…while also doing some scheming.  Of course there’s scheming.

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After hearing some scandalous gossip from her bestie, Pommeraye hatches an inspired plan.  The scandal involves a woman born out of wedlock who nevertheless makes a good match to a member of the nobility.  As it turns out, her fiancé is a next-level schemer, and arranges for a fake wedding.  When she takes him to court, this woman inevitably loses, and turns with her daughter to a den of vice (le gasp) where they earn a living through sex work.

Inspired to seek vengeance against the Marquis with these two women, Pommeraye sets them up in a flat of their own as long as they follow the path of righteousness.

After introducing the Marquis to her pious friend and lovely daughter, he becomes obsessed.  So consumed with his thoughts of Mademoiselle J, the Marquis begs Pommeraye to reunite them.  Pommeraye at last allows him to join them for dinner when he “happens to be in the neighborhood.”  During dinner, Pommeraye grills him on the questionable morality of libertines and prods him to speak in praise of living by the words of Christ.

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Hiring the equivalent of 19th century PIs, the Marquis tracks down Mademoiselle J and propositions her repeatedly.  He writes romantic letters, offering jewels, houses, monthly income, and significant amounts of his fortune.

Pommeraye, intercepting his letters, urges Madame J to reject all of these offers as they are not enough.  Finally, the Marquis realizes the only acceptable offer is one of marriage, which Mademoiselle J is reluctant to accept.  Conflicted about lying about her past and her feelings for the Marquis, Mademoiselle J eventually accepts as a way to provide for her mother.

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Shortly after the wedding, Pommeraye takes Madame J and the newlyweds on a fun day trip…to the den of vice (dun dun dun).  How will the Marquis react when he learns the truth about Mademoiselle J’s past and Pommeraye’s present schemes?

The Rating:

4/5 Pink Panther Heads

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again:  I am always here for a period drama.  The scenery, the costumes, the melodrama, the passive-aggressive lines of dialogue–I love it so much.

Though the obvious comparison is probably Dangerous Liaisons, this is actually quite sweet for a revenge film. Pommeraye herself starts out as a somewhat sympathetic character, but her schemes ultimately have the power to hurt a lot of people and she gives zero fucks.

I appreciate that this is reasonably progressive concerning women’s sexuality, especially where period dramas are concerned.  The Marquis is of course a bit of a douche when it comes to Mademoiselle J’s past as a sex worker, but the story resists the idea that she is somehow unclean or immoral.  Meanwhile, Pommeraye’s schemes actually do, as promised, ensure that a man no longer acts as a libertine (though not necessarily in the way she intends).

There’s also quite a lot of farcical fun here.  The scene at dinner cracked me up with all of the uncomfortable squirming the Marquis endured.  The amount of times he unconvincingly just happens to bump into Madame J and her daughter is quite entertaining too.

Would my blog wife remain steadfast or plan an elaborate fake wedding just to get this one off her case?  Find out by reading her review here!

a woman with a tumbler of alcohol sits in a chair, holding a cigarette and looking ahead
Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Frida, or: Cry Me a River(a)

Our experiment with biopics and films based on true stories draws to a close!  This week, we break away from the subtheme of dirtbag men…and yet still manage to get our share of dirtbaggery.  We’re talking about women in the art world, after all–specifically, a painter who is now one of the world’s most renowned.

The Film:

Frida

The Premise:

This biopic follows the life of Frida Kahlo from her school days through relationship with muralist Diego Rivera and her own success as a painter.

The Ramble:

In the 1920s, a young Frida is a free-spirited student.  Close with her family, and especially so with her father, Frida boldly proclaims she will never marry.  Posing for her sister’s wedding photos in a men’s suit, it’s clear from the start this is a woman determined to live on her own terms.

Tragically, Frida’s schooling is cut short when a streetcar accident leaves her temporarily paralyzed and in chronic pain for the rest of her life.  Though she is eventually able to walk again, Frida’s time confined to her bed changes the path of her life–the only thing she is able to do all day is paint self-portraits.

a woman lies on her back in bed while painting a self-portrait

With medical bills piling up, Frida is determined to contribute to the household.  In a fateful move, she demands acclaimed muralist Diego Rivera critique her work and tell her if it’s good enough to make a living.  Impressed with her painting, Rivera quickly takes her under his wing and brings her into the Communist party crowd.  And I mean party in multiple senses of the word.

Both Frida and Diego drink a LOT.  While Diego gets angry and argumentative at parties, Frida opts for flirting with ladies in slinky dresses.  Even as Diego agrees he and Frida will be friends only, the two begin a sexual relationship.  Despite neither believing in marriage, it’s not long before the two have said their vows (and almost everyone in their circle places a bet on how long their wedded bliss will last).

a woman drinks alcohol straight from the bottle as another woman looks at her

Not long, is the answer.  Frida is furious when she learns Diego’s ex lives in the apartment above theirs while she finds a place of her own.  After an angry confrontation, Frida ends up with a new friend who teaches her to make the mole Diego loves.

Though Diego sleeps around, he promises loyalty to Frida if not fidelity.  The two get into SO MANY fights that often end with broken kitchenware, but they always make up.

Meanwhile, Diego faces critique from members of his own party for the government-sponsored murals he paints.  Diego argues his murals spread a socialist message for the people, though other Communists believe painting for the government makes him complicit in their policies.

With an unfinished mural on the wall behind them, a woman holding a bottle of alchohol sits next to a man covered in paint

Tired of this fight, Diego accepts an invitation to New York for an exhibition of his work.  Frida travels with him as she learned from Diego’s ex to never leave him to his own devices.  However, Frida instantly hates the idolization of wealth and ambition she encounters in the States, and the false smiles on every face.  Diego, on the other hand, loves the praise, admiration, and number of women always on his arm.  When Diego pushes things too far by including Lenin in a commissioned mural, the couple finally returns home to Mexico.

two women husk corn at a table, while a monkey sits beside them, and two children in the background play with a dog

Frida’s spirits lift, but Diego falls into a deep depression.  When he has an affair with Frida’s sister, who has recently left her abusive husband, Frida is finally sick of this shit and moves away.  She once again drinks A LOT, both alone and at parties.

That is, until Diego, who has agreed to host the exiled Trotsky, asks for her help in welcoming him to the country.  This plan works a little too well when Frida begins a relationship with Trotsky.

Eventually, Frida and Diego make up (IDK if this counts as a spoiler?), though her mobility and overall health decline.  Bedridden when she finally has an exhibition in her own country, Frida is determined to be at the opening.  What’s an artist to do?

The Rating:

4.5/5 Pink Panther Heads

I just love Frida.  Truly, has a more fascinating human ever existed?  Salma Hayek captures her energy, intelligence, and charisma here.  The film blends some surreal elements with life in a way that feels very Frida, and frequently weaves her paintings into the story.  Since her paintings are so personal, placing her work in the context of her life gives us a greater understanding of the pain behind them.

The film doesn’t shy away from Frida’s chronic pain, bisexuality, or infamously turbulent relationship with Diego.  I enjoy that other characters sometimes directly ask why Frida stays married to Diego in spite of everything, and the non-judgmental approach the film takes in response.  Whether we as a contemporary audience understand or accept her reasons, as a human of flaws and contradictions, they are her own.

I will say the one thing I do really like about this film’s portrayal of Diego is his encouragement of Frida’s art.  She constantly dismisses her own talent, but Diego frequently tells her and others what a skilled painter she is.

I’m obsessed with this film and its subject, even as it proves that behind every great woman is a dirtbag man.

Would my blog wife paint a beautiful portrait of this one or throw a plate at its head?  Read her review here to find out!

two shirtless men sleep side by side with arms around each other
Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

I Am Michael, or: To Be Gay or Not to Be

What sounds like a more interesting film:  one in which a legendary Chilean poet evades the law and narrowly escapes the cops or one about a man who moves to Canada and leans into Christian fundamentalism?  Subjectivity aside, the latter also features Zachary Quinto’s excellent eyebrow acting and the approach of a Lifetime movie to its subject matter.  And honestly, a film earns a lot of credit from me when it avoids heavy-handed narration.

The Film:

I Am Michael

The Premise:

The story of a gay activist who ultimately rejects his sexuality in favor of Christianity.

The Ramble:

“If you’re a moral person, you’ll choose to be straight.”  Not exactly the opener you’d expect for a film about a gay activist.  Except this activist is Michael Glatze, a man who edited a gay magazine in San Francisco before renouncing his sexuality in favor of Christianity.  That’s a lot to process, no?  Let’s back up a few years.

Before coming out as straight, Michael (played by James Franco) was in a serious relationship with love of my life Spock Zachary Quinto Bennett.  Michael is very much part of the gay community:  attending all-night raves, mourning traumatic events including the murder of Matthew Shepard.

Three men cheer amidst a larger group of people at a club. The men are wearing glow in the dark necklaces and bracelets as accessories.

When Bennett gets a job in Halifax, Michael’s life changes dramatically.  Instead of dedicating his time to the magazine, he gives talks to local schools, writes a lot of blog content, and eventually begins working in a soul-crushing office job.

After a year passes, Michael doesn’t feel any better adjusted to his new life.  When he fights with Bennett, Michael goes off in search of dudes, and picks up a cute young guy named Tyler.  Michael and Bennett begin an open relationship with Tyler, eventually traveling across the country with him to complete a documentary.

Two men walk through a meadow of white wildflowers. The man in front holds a flower and wears a backwards red baseball cap, blue t-shirt and jeans. The man behind him has blond hair, and wears a red t-shirt and jeans.

While filming the documentary about queer youth in the U.S., the three encounter a gay student at Liberty University (I’m sorry, but gross gross gross gross gross; I’m so creeped out by Liberty).  Though he identifies as gay, the student embraces his Christian identity and begins praying with his troubled friend.

Michael begins to wonder if he can have it all, identifying as both a gay man and a Christian.  However, he opts for living quietly with his doubts, going to church and reading the Bible in secret.

A group of people meditate on rugs in a large room with wooden floors and walls. They sit with crossed legs and eyes closed, and a man in a blue tank top and black shorts is the most prominent.

Meanwhile, Michael becomes increasingly preoccupied with his mortality and fears above all that the afterlife is just nothingness.  After a panic attack, he becomes convinced he has the heart condition that killed his father.

When he insists there’s a lot of love in the Bible, Michael earns some eyebrow raises from Bennett and Tyler.  He explores the Mormon church and Buddhism, drawn to their clear visions of the afterlife and potential to solve his so-called homosexual problem.  After moving out, he claims he is no longer gay.

What’s up with that?

The Rating:

3/5 Pink Panther Heads

There’s something about this film that stays with me.  It may not be brilliant, but Zachary Quinto is great as ever and even James Franco gives a decent performance.  Possibly because he plays a character who’s a bit of an asshole?

It makes me sad that Michael broke Bennett’s heart, and it’s disturbing to think about the number of people who still have to lie about who they are in order to have the job and life they want.  To be clear:  I do not sympathize with people who claim they’re persecuted for their Christian beliefs in predominantly Christian nations.  It’s also troubling how Michael buys into the false dichotomy of being part of gay culture or living as the squarest straight dude alive.  I like to think we’re getting better at recognizing the many different ways to identify as LGBTQ, but clearly we still have a long way to go.

Narratively, I wish we’d spent a little more time on the impact of Michael’s actions on Bennett and the gay community as a whole.  I don’t really care if someone’s sexual orientation changes (though obv the idea that you can choose this is problematic AF), but the really shitty thing Michael did was perpetuate a horrible culture that tells young people their sexuality is a sin to be corrected.  I also feel we could use some more insight into Michael’s interiority while recognizing that I don’t ever want to know what’s really going on inside this guy’s head.

The only thing certain is that blonde James Franco is the douchiest James Franco.

Would my blog wife accept this one as it is or ditch it faster than a blonde James Franco?  Read her review here to find out!

Two men sit across from each other at a table in the visiting room of a prison. One man wears glasses, a blue sweater, and jeans; the other is in an orange prison jumpsuit.
Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

True Story, or: Like Mike

Biopic/based on a true story month continues, along with the unofficial theme of dirtbag men doing dirtbag things.  Bonus(?):  one of the stars of this film is a dirtbag both onscreen and IRL.

The Film:

True Story

The Premise:

Disgraced journalist Mike Finkel explores an unusual murder case involving a man who claims to be Mike Finkel.

The Ramble:

Mike Finkel, renowned New York Times journalist, is eager to see his latest piece published.  The story highlights the abuse of modern-day slaves in regions of Africa.  When Mike merges the stories of 5 different young men into a fictional amalgamation, it turns out his eagerness is misplaced.  Caught out for his fabrications, Finkel is fired and unlikely to find work as a journalist ever again.

Man in a gray hoodie is in profile while talking on a cell phone. Behind him, a wood-paneled wall holds 7 framed New York Times magazine covers.

Returning in defeat to Montana and his archivist(!) wife Jill, Mike seemingly resigns himself to a quiet life in the remote but beautiful mountains.  There, he learns of a rather bizarre story he’s unknowingly connected to.

A woman with shoulder-length brown hair sits on a living room couch with a brown glazed mug. She is wearing a baggy cream-colored wool sweater.

A man named Christian Longo has been arrested in Mexico for the murder of his wife and young children by drowning.  The twist?  He has been claiming to be Mike Finkel of the New York Times.

Intrigued, Mike begins corresponding with Christian, ultimately traveling to Oregon to meet the identity thief.  Christian has long admired Mike’s work and feels he knows the journalist through his writing.  Though he protests his innocence, Christian is seriously contemplating a guilty plea as he believes no one cares enough to uncover the real truth.  Challenge accepted.  Mike decides to investigate Christian’s case for himself and cover the story as his big comeback.

As he works on the story, Mike becomes increasingly convinced that Christian is innocent and the two develop an understanding.  Christian refuses to tell the full truth as he claims to be protecting someone.  However, Christian is also weird AF and makes super creepy phone calls to Jill.

A man with brown hair and a goatee sits in a gray suit, testifying in a courtroom. A man with gray hair and glasses wearing judge robes is frowning in the background.

When the trial begins, Christian reveals financial troubles that caused problems in his marriage, and ultimately pleads guilty to 2 of the 4 murder charges.  What does the guilty plea mean?

The Rating:

2.5/5 Pink Panther Heads

To recap:  slightly scummy dude wants to believe much scummier dude is telling the truth despite statistics and evidence suggesting the contrary.

This story doesn’t come across as particularly remarkable even with the unique relationship between its subjects.  I will give credit to this for avoiding a sensational retelling, but everything comes across like a TV movie with the pretty ordinary plot and lack of interesting roles here.  For fuck’s sake, give Felicity Jones something to do!

I don’t get how the Mike Finkel in this story is a journalist; all he does here is make up stories and naively believe a murderer who enjoys his writing.  Like I get that the criminal justice system is fucked and frequently wrong, but a horrifyingly high number of women are murdered by their partners.  All you have to do is look up the stats, dude.

However, the main problem for me is the lack of depth to Mike and Christian’s relationship.  The film attempts to convey a connection between the two, but it doesn’t seem to be especially interesting.  Though the two aren’t really friends, the film does intentionally tell us they are still in touch yet doesn’t do enough to convey why.  And after the creepy phone calls to Jill, Mike just looks more like a scumbag for maintaining their weird relationship.

Maybe the book is better?

Would my blog wife write the book on this one or sentence it to life without parole?  Read her review here to find out!

eight men and women are arranged in a row as they sing emotively
TV Reviews

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, or: I’m Clearly Not Over You Yet

It’s the end of an era.  The last episodes of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend aired on Friday, April 5:  an ep to conclude the show’s storyline and a live special filmed in LA.  I’m so pleased the show’s creators were able to bring things to a close on their own terms, but it’s still hard to let go.  While far from perfect, CEG is one of my favorite shows in recent memory, featuring a flawed heroine, a cast of memorable supporting characters, and messages about self-acceptance, mental health, sexuality, reproductive health, and the power of female friendship — all told through songs at once hilarious and heartfelt.  I’m going to miss this show.

I’ve seen so many lists ranking the best songs of the series, but this is impossible for me to do.  I’d still like to reflect on the songs and their importance to the show’s themes, so I’ll list some of my favorite songs by category instead.  Here we go!

Female solidarity

“Friendtopia” – the Spice Girls parody/tribute is incredible here, and I wish more songs about girl power involved literal revolutionary action.  Favorite lyric:  “When my friends and I stick together, there’s nothing we can’t do / And when I say that I specifically mean we’re gonna stage a coup.”

“Let’s Generalize About Men” – the fab ’80s style is everything to me, and I appreciate so much how the show crafts songs that support women while simultaneously calling them out.  Among other things, this song draws attention to the problematic gay best friend stereotype.  Favorite lyric:  “Gay men are all really great, every single one / They’re never mean, just sassy / They’re all completely adorable and fun.”

four women dressed in colorful 1980s style dress suits sing the words "Let's generalize about men"

“Women Gotta Stick Together” – while I’m glad Valencia stuck around as a character and experienced growth, I love her thoroughly bitchy early songs.  Though claiming to be about female solidarity, Valencia uses feminism here to remind others of their flaws, a smile pasted on her face throughout.  Favorite lyric: “Women have the power, the power to make a change / Like this girl should pluck her eyebrows, and those jeans should be exchanged.”

“Feelin’ Kinda Naughty” – the show is great at pointing out the creepy underpinnings of so many relationships.  While parodying the fetishization of lesbian relationships, CEG also highlights another way women can convince themselves their bad behavior is somehow female solidarity.  Favorite lyric:  “I want to kill you and wear your skin like a dress / But then also have you see me in that dress / And be like, ‘OMG, you look so cute in my skin.'”

Wallowing a little too hard at your own pity party

“You Stupid Bitch” – this was a real turning point in the show for me; I felt this song so personally and both appreciated that and felt way too exposed.  Favorite lyric:  “These shards are a metaphor for my soul / Can’t stop the self-pity ‘cause I’m on a roll.”

“Tell Me I’m OK” – I hate how accurate these songs are; Rebecca needing assurance from random strangers that she’s normal, and convinced that everyone else knows inherently how to come across as normal.  Favorite lyric: “Seriously, Patrick, was I sick in school the day they taught you how to be a normal person? / It just feels like there’s something fundamental I’m missing out on / Like, is there an instruction manual?”

“Santa Ana Winds” – Rebecca uses the Santa Ana Winds as an excuse for her behavior rather than taking responsibility; she also manages to make herself the center of everything by convincing herself the Sana Ana Winds are out to get her personally.  Eric Michael Roy’s performance absolutely makes this song. Favorite lyric:  “I’m mystical but also carry dangerous spores / I bring whimsy and forest fires.”

a man dressed in a suit dances along the road as cars are backed up along both sides

“The End of the Movie” – another song I wish I didn’t relate to so hard; I just feel like life is supposed to make way more sense than it does.  Plus the Josh Groban cameo is perfectly executed.  Favorite lyric:  “If you saw a movie that was like real life, you’d be like ‘What the hell was that movie about? It was really all over the place’ / Life doesn’t make narrative sense.”

“No One Else Is Singing My Song” – oof, this one hurts because I know I’ve been guilty of wallowing in my own self-pity to the point I’m convinced no one could possibly ever relate to what I’m feeling.  CEG plays this up perfectly in this song, emphasizing that a lot of Rebecca’s isolation is self-inflicted.  Favorite lyric:  “Have you ever been far from home / So scared you had to roam / And now you’re beaten and tired with no one to call a friend (He doesn’t count).”

The power of self-delusion

“West Covina” – so many of Rebecca’s problems come from this place of seeing exactly what she wants to see while denying the reality of the situation.  Favorite lyric: “My life’s about to change, oh my gosh / Because I’m desperately, hopelessly in love with…West Covina.”

“I’m a Good Person” – the uncensored version is everything to me.  Once again, Rebecca looks to others for validation while completely deceiving herself.  Favorite lyric: “Newsflash, fuckwads, I’m a good person / Do what I can for you all the time.”

“Nothing Is Ever Anyone’s Fault” – Rebecca gets so close to self-actualization here, recognizing that her trauma and mistakes have shaped who she is.  Unfortunately, she and Nathaniel are blindly determined to blame their parents for all that has gone wrong in their lives.  Favorite lyric:  “It wasn’t technically Hitler’s fault / Hitler’s brother died and that made him super sad.”

“A Diagnosis” – getting an accurate diagnosis is a huge step for Rebecca, but it’s not going to be an easy journey.  Again, she gets so close to the point, yet misses it entirely, believing that the diagnosis equates to a solution to her problems.  Favorite lyric: “With a diagnosis, I’m ready to blow this joint / And by joint I mean my inner sense of confusion (You said that confusingly).”

a woman in a clinic wears a yellow dress and sings the words "A diagnosis"

“After Everything I’ve Done for You” – poor Paula is just trying to vicariously live out her romantic fantasies through Rebecca, so who can blame her for getting a bit upset when her scheming yields no results?  As this song demonstrates, Rebecca isn’t the only character fixated on fairytale romance.  Favorite lyric: “That’s right, I make yoga class schedules / There’s no limit to where my reach is.”

“Don’t Be a Lawyer” –  I absolutely love the ’90s vibe of this, as well as what I consider (further) confirmation that my decision to work in libraries was the best of my life.  Also shout-out to “I Want to Be a Child Star,” which is great and could have the alternate title “Don’t Be a Child Star.” Favorite lyric: “There are so many other professions that don’t turn you into Jeff Sessions.”

Toxic masculinity

“Fit Hot Guys Have Problems Too” – one of my absolute favorite songs of the entire show, this takedown of toxic masculinity never fails to crack me up.  It’s obnoxious how a group of extremely privileged dudes is holding their own pity party, though at the same time, it’s really their own conception of masculinity holding back their free emotional expression.  Favorite lyric: “Don’t look at us, we’re not dancing for you / Leave us alone, we have to twerk out our sad.”

three men without shirts dance onstage in front of a crowd, singing the words "Twerk out our sad"

“I Go to the Zoo” – playing against type, fuckboy Nathaniel reveals the illegal high he gets to forget about his broken heart:  visiting the zoo after hours.  Favorite lyric: “I look at the monkeys / Their eyes look like my eyes.”

“The Buzzing from the Bathroom” – the idea that Tim’s masculinity is threatened based on his wife’s orgasms is ridiculous, yet it’s a real fear men have. The Les Mis parody makes Tim’s fears seem all the more melodramatic while reminding us there’s a very simple solution here:  just ask what your romantic partner likes.  Favorite lyric:  “Oh, the buzzing, cursed buzzing, that damn incessant hum / I used to think I was a hero / Can’t believe she didn’t come…to tell me that she needed so much more than I could give.”

Problematic narratives surrounding romantic love

“Love Kernels” – the Beyoncé tribute is brilliant, the costuming incredible, and the lyrics inspired.  God, it hurts how desperate Rebecca is and how real it feels.  Favorite lyric:  “I’ll be patient until the kernels rain down like candy on Shaquille O’Neal in the movie Kazaam.

“Fuckton of Cats” — again, the TV version is good, but the uncensored version is exquisite.  Favorite lyric: “This is the future smell of my house / It’s the smell of my dreams that have died (and cats).”

“The Math of Love Triangles” – while love triangles are the bread and butter of rom-coms, they’re not as glamorous as Rachel Bloom’s Marilyn Monroe impersonation. Favorite lyric: “We’re starting to suspect you don’t sincerely want to know about triangles.”

a woman in a blue dress smiles broadly as a group of men wearing glasses look on around her

“One Indescribable Instant” – Lea Salonga sings beautifully about fairytale romance in the vaguest of terms.  Favorite lyric: “What, are you kidding me? / No, it’s for real-able.”

“Oh My God I Think I Like You” – this is surprisingly sweet and sad for a song that focuses so much on intense, no-strings sex.  Favorite lyric: “Is there spermicidal lubricant that can kill the fluttering in my heart?”

“I Hate Everything But You” – I relate to Greg a lot sometimes, most clearly exemplified by this song.  Favorite lyric: “I hate when people ask me if I’d ever get a tattoo / Hate combination conditioner and shampoo.”

Sexuality and sexual health

Cats songs: “Hungry Vagina Metaphor,” “Itchy Vagina Metaphor,” “Funky Vagina Metaphor” – it’s impossible for me to choose a favorite among these, though Fred Armisen’s cameo as Itchy Cat holds a special place in my heart.  I’m impressed with the show’s commitment to exponentially increasing the number of songs written about yeast infections.  Favorite lyric: “Funky cat is all the rage when something’s off with your pH.”

a man dressed as an orange cat crouches on all fours on a couch

“I Gave You a UTI” – Santino Fontana’s performance here is so great, while the song breaks new ground with its subject matter.  At least, as far as I know, there had never been songs about having a UTI until this one.  Favorite lyric: “I’m so good at sex / Your maidenship got wrecked.”

The un-sexiness of sex

“The Sexy Getting Ready Song” – truly an instant classic.  Right off the bat, CEG is interested in examining unrealistic beauty standards for women.  This one focuses on the misconception that looking flawless comes naturally; actually, it’s quite a process that is really painful and often downright disgusting.  Favorite lyric:  “You know what?  I gotta go apologize to some bitches.  I’m forever changed after what I just seen.”

“The First Penis I Saw” – unlike other songs about first love, this one doesn’t hesitate to bring up the awkward, embarrassing side of a first sexual experience.  The ABBA parody is brilliantly done, and Donna Lynne Champlin’s face acting is just so excellent.  Favorite lyric:  literally this entire song.

three women holding vegetables as microphones stand in front of a large squash, singing the words "First penis"

“Let’s Have Intercourse” – taking a romantic Ed Sheeran-style approach to this ballad, Nathaniel manages to make this seduction entirely about himself and his own gratification.  Favorite lyric: “Sometimes my body wants things that my mind does not / My body wants things that make my mind go ‘Body, what?'”

“Strip Away My Conscience” – shattering all of our illusions about sexy stripteases, Rebecca’s number includes throwing a shoe at Nathaniel’s head and reminding him that her thong has just been up her butt.  Favorite lyric: “Baby, it’s such foreplay / When you slither like a moray / EEL.”

Self-acceptance

“Gettin’ Bi” – such a fun song that captures Darryl’s enthusiastic personality while making important and valid points about bisexuality.  Favorite lyric: “It doesn’t take an intellectual to get that I’m bisexual.”

a man in a white suit sings into a microphone as four members of a band play instruments behind him

“Anti-Depressants Are So Not a Big Deal” — I strongly feel this should be required listening for anyone taking anti-depressants or other meds to manage mental illness, as well as people who don’t understand why these medications are so important and necessary.  Favorite lyric:  “Some cry that in the past we didn’t medicate everyone / Cool, witch trials and the crusades / Sounded like so much fun.”

Bonus round

“Dream Ghost” — I absolutely love this song and don’t know what category to put it in. The Dream Girls motown tribute is so catchy in and of itself, while the meta commentary is sharp, and Michael Hyatt’s voice is so perfect for it.  Favorite lyric: “This guy is deciding whether or not to leave his wife / This girl is wondering if she should terminate a pregnancy.”

three women dressed in long, shiny dresses stand in front of a cloud backdrop

“There’s No Bathroom” — the Weird Al cameo this show deserves with the reprise I never would’ve expected.  This song is as bizarrely fun as the man himself (complete with accordion).  Favorite lyric: again, this entire number.

Thanks for sticking with me through this behemoth of a post.  Thanks for the memories, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend!